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Hippo-crite: gambling v. cannabis

By Johnnie Rosario

(Tumon, Guam) At the intersection of Route 1 Tamuning and Gov. Carlos Camacho Rd. is the Lucky Land Gameroom near the now-closed Pizza Hut family restaurant. The symbolism of how powerful the addiction to Liberty slot machines isn't more clear than at that road junction, where the state of the Guam economy is quite clear. People would rather blow their paychecks to make gambling lords richer, than to feed their families.

Less than 1,000 feet away are the two northernmost family parks along East Hagatna Bay.

It is not against the law to park these slot machines and gamerooms near public parks or schools, which explains the 24-hour presence and operation of these violent crime-promoting machines near to places frequented by children and families. When the Guam Legislature made these machines legal, none of the senators thought to prohibit their operation near so-called drug-free school zones, or public parks.

However, in the debate over now Public Law 35-5 (adult-use cannabis law) this year, pro-gambling Sen. Amanda Shelton, whose family profits from the slot machines industry, the senator was adamant about prohibiting cannabis dispensaries and other businesses from operating within 1,000 feet of schools and public parks.

She managed to slip in an amendment to the bill before it passed the Guam Legislature that states:

The board shall not issue a license for a cannabis establishment located within a distance of one thousand (1,000) feet from any public or private school and other places or facilities where youth generally congregate, which include childcare centers, public playgrounds, and parks.

The prohibition makes it very difficult to find real estate on Guam for the cultivation, distribution, and retail sale of cannabis. When you think about it, there can't be a single dispensary in Tumon, though senators tout the economic benefits of cannabis sales to tourists.

A scientific study published this past September called Not in my backyard? Not so fast. The effect of marijuana legalization on neighborhood crime found that the crime rate in Denver, which had legalized adult-use cannabis, declined by 19 percent. Think it's dummy science? The authors are economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The crime rate overall in Denver increased by 1.7 percent, but the increases only occurred in places where there were no dispensaries, according to the report.

Ms. Shelton's public concerns regarding the proximity of cannabis operations were based solely on her so-called moral compass and her concern for children. What about the gamerooms her family profits from?

Why does she have nothing to say about the gameroom, where the old Kim Chee supermarket was along San Antonio Ave. in Tamuning, within 200 feet of the Tamuning park and gymnasium at the intersections of San Antonio and Route 1?

How about the gamerooms at the hospital road intersection that are within 1,000 feet of the hospital, the mental health facility, and the Onward Hotel waterpark?

Then there are the several gamerooms in Tumon that are walking distance to Ypao Beach Park, Matapang Beach Park, St. Victor Church, Fujita Beach, and the Takano Amusement Park for children. Ever wonder about the idiot chronics who hold up tourists walking along Tumon Row? Where do you think they came from?

The Macheche gameroom is within 1,000 linear feet of the Latte Heights Park that overlooks Dededo and has been held up by armed robbers. Where is Ms. Shelton's concern for the children and families so close to violent crime?

The Lucky Land gamerooms also have been robbed by thieves brandishing weapons. The gameroom in Barrigada is a short walk away from B.P. Carbullido Elementary School.

So are the Mangilao gamerooms, which surround the vicinity of Father Duenas Memorial, George Washington High, and Price Elementary schools. They're also within the 1,000-feet limitation of the Guam Community College and University of Guam.

The gameroom at the Sunshine Plaza in Ordot is a stone's throw away from Dominican Child Care Center, Agueda Johnston Middle School, and Ordot Chalan Pago Elementary School.

The gameroom in Yona is within 1,000 feet of M.U. Lujan Elementary.

And then there's Dededo. Several gamerooms are situated very close to Lencho Park, Santa Barbara School, the Buffer Zone, and the Dededo Skate Park. The NCS gameroom is walking distance from Finegayan Elementary School and the Astumbo Fire Station.

For crying out loud, there were Liberty slot machines for years within the children's amusement park inside the Micronesia Mall. The machines that were inside the King's family restaurant in Harmon were well within the 1,000-feet limit of J.M. Guerrero Elementary School and the Harmon soccer fields, the northern swimming pool, and Dededo Multipurpose Gymnasium.

All of these gamerooms are hosts to criminal activity and nearly all of them have been marks for violent crime that has been reported to police.

Cannabis critics may equate the so-called vices of cannabis use with gambling addiction, however there are big differences, according to science and just by judging by your own experiences with crime in this community. The first of which is the crime rate. Gamerooms invite crime and produce criminal tendencies. Cannabis relaxes otherwise cranky people.

This is not to say that a cannabis facility should be parked near a school, but it's hard to not notice the hypocrisy in Ms. Shelton's promotion of public policy that restricts crime-busting cannabis facilities while she allows crime-mongering gambling operations to continue unfettered by responsible regulation.

She's a hypocrite. So are the rest of the senators, who do not do their jobs and get rid of these gambling devices.

Here's another fact to stew on: If more adults spent money on cannabis and less on slot machines, that iconic Pizza Hut would still be open, and the Lucky Land gameroom wouldn't.

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